Almost every CPU cooler we receive nowadays is some massive tower that loves consuming every square-inch of chassis space. Because we’ve been inundated with these hulking behemoths, it’s refreshing to see a low-profile cooler such as the Phanteks PH-TC90LS. At 3.75x3.75x1.77 inches, this cooler makes the Intel stock cooler look tall and should fit the snuggest of HTPC builds.
The PH-TC90LS features a single 9.2cm fan and nickel-plated aluminum fins on top of a square copper base. Aesthetically, it’s a no-frills design.
Two rubber strips between the heatsink and fan do a good job of taming the acoustics.
Installing the cooler is, for the most part, pretty straightforward. The four corners of the PH-TC90LS have screw holes that let you easily mount the cooler onto the mobo. The fan uses four rubber pins that allow two mounting clips to attach the fan to the heatsink. Also included are two adhesive-backed rubber strips to stick between the fan and heatsink to dampen noise.
We initially had some issues getting enough mounting tension for the PH-TC90LS when we tried to install it on our LGA2011 mobo. It took us three attempts and some major cranking before the Phanteks cooler would perform as it should. When we tried mounting the PH-TC90LS on our LGA1155 test bed to see if it was any easier there, the cooler installed without a hitch using the included backplate. Other than this headache, installation was relatively painless. Phanteks could have made the process even easier by having the whole cooler all assembled out-of-the-box like Intel’s “stock” 2011 cooler, the Thermal Solution RTS2011AC. (We put the word stock in quotes because 2011 Sandy Bridge-E CPUs don’t actually ship with coolers.)
While we generally test to see how well CPU coolers perform on our overclocked Sandy Bridge-E CPU, low-profile coolers such as the PH-TC90LS aren’t meant for extreme overclocking. To make allowances, we reset our thermal-test PC to its stock 3.3GHz clock for our benchmarks.
Compared to Intel’s RTS2011AC cooler, the PH-TC90LS wasn’t as cool. When both coolers were run in the motherboard’s Performance mode, Intel’s stock part idled with a 7 degree advantage. The differential only increased under heavy load. Here, the Phanteks went up to 77 C, which isn’t bad, but was noticeably warmer than Intel’s cooler by about 13 degrees. However, these temps are still perfectly suitable for HTPCs and, more importantly, the CPU didn’t throttle.
One area where the PH-TC90LS really impressed us was in the acoustic department. Those two noise-dampening strips really did their job. We can’t say the same about Intel’s cooler, which was far louder under load.
While the PH-TC90LS isn’t going to win any thermal awards, its amazingly small form factor makes it a great choice if you’re looking to build a tiny, quiet HTPC.
Note: This review was taken from the Holiday 2012 issue of the magazine.
Prince of Persia (THE GAME)
Quiet; super-small form factor will fit tiny HTPC chassis.
Prince of Persia (THE MOVIE)
Intel’s stock cooler cools better and is slightly cheaper.
Dimensions H x D x W (inches)
3.75 x 3.75 x 1.77
1x 9.2cm 4-pin PWM
Phanteks PH-TC90LS (Performance mode)
Intel RTS2011AC (Performance mode)
Burn - Ambient
All temperatures in degrees Celsius. Best scores bolded. All tests performed using an Intel Core i7-3960X at 3.3GHz, on an Asus Sabertooth X79 motherboard with 16GB DDR3/1600, in a Thermaltake Level 10 GT with stock fans set to Low.